Week 2: Technohegemony and a Teen Audience

Before answering the explicit questions posed in this prompt, I’d like to devote some of my response to addressing the issues Dr Noble raised in her essay and the larger issues implicated in a discussion of technology, the hegemony, and the inscription of gender, racial, and socioeconomic identities.

Week 2: Baldwin and Noble’s Look Into Systems of Power

In The Fire Next Time, Baldwin asserts that the “white world” has formulated a mythology revolving America. Yet this mythology is one whose falseness the Black man is aware of although his countrymen (white world) has yet to come to that realization. For his (white) identity is embedded in that mythology and consequently so are their notions of blackness and to reveal it as such, to admit the mythology is just that, that it is a lie, a falsehood, to renege on what they have defined as blackness would be to give way to the factors with which they conceptualize whiteness. To expose it all as a lie would be to destroy the very foundations of the white identity. It would be an erasure of America and consequently of whiteness. Yet Baldwin seems to suggest that only this would allow for Blacks to emerge from the state of invisibility that they have been condemned to and therefore provide for a mutual state of freedom. Yet the erasure of this mythology is therefore highly problematic for whites for once they are devoid of this binary and the mythology of what America is, with this mirror that reflects only the self and no other what would be seen? I think both Baldwins and Noble’s works speak to issues of representation and the manner in which mythologies are created to serve one group. The systems that create them then gain and maintain power by marginalizing others and Noble demonstrates the manner in which our current society contributes to that. Noble’s research on Google demonstrated how it facilitates and allows its biased searches to be thought of as neutral and how this perpetuates negative representations and essentially the silencing of Black women.

Week 2: Challenging the Dominant Tech, a Lesson Plan

For a lesson plan to be most effective, there should be a goal achieved by the end by both the instructor and the students. At a high school level class, I believe the best way to approach the topic of Google is through the technology that we utilize of theirs every day, driving the point that it has already infiltrated and dominated our lives. The goal then of this lesson plan is to allow the students to be at least aware, at most cynical about the activities that Google produces in them, and an awareness of the value of good research (this coming from a Teaching Fellow that just spent a semester with Freshmen asking them to conduct sound and detailed research). As I said, I think the best way to do this is through the use of the product, and so I would go Google Chrome, which I do believe is the best search engine with the ease of my tailored needs, and explain that to the students, along with the access and programs available through a free Google account is incredible: Google drive to create, store and share all your documents, slideshows, graphs, tables, and more, which is of great importance as we have discovered in a digital age to have backups of everything available online (Box, Dropbox, and others are examples of non-Google driven storage).  Next, I would pull up YouTube, the Google owned and extremely dominant video upload cite, to pull search the video “Google Don’t Be Evil”. The first video that pops up is this: “Google’s Plan for World Domination.” Please, take a look.  

Week 2: Teaching Bias in Technology

The illusion of neutrality and machine-like objectivity are definitely understandings which permeate the use of technology. However, our discussion of the prejudice enmeshed with the algorithms in search engines like Google was something that made perfect sense to me. I don’t know a lot about algorithms or the way search engines function, but Dr. Noble’s explanation of “the man behind the curtain” was certainly easy enough for me to understand and sequentially evaluate. Therefore, I am under the impression that the difficulty in teaching bias in Google to undergraduates may be overestimated.

Week 2: Lesson Plan – Google, Hegemony, Systemic Bias

Library of Congress Category: Information Resources, subclass ZA – either Information Superhighway (!), Electronic Information Resources, or Computer Network Resources

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
suggested: search engines, hegemony, neo-liberalism, computer algorithms (all 4 found!)

¶ Week 2: Questions

Required – Do the following after you have written your response:  

a.) Look at the Library of Congress Classifications and determine the category in which your post should go.

b.) Propose 4 keywords that most closely describe your post and search those terms in the Library of Congress Subject Headings database to see if they exist. For terms that are not already there, search for ones that most closely match them. Include both your original keywords and the LC terms in your post.

I realize using the LC is new to you.  Just do your best.

Week 1: A “Current” Counter-history: How Jet Magazine Countered The New York Times


As is discussed in question 2 posed for this post, Hartman’s interesting goal in her writing is to present the untold history of slave women as being “inseparable from writing a history of the present” (Hartman 4).  Considering she writes based on documents over 150 years old, Hartman is bringing these texts and their “count-historical” truths forward to reflect upon the present, saying “by which I mean the incomplete project of freedom, and the precarious life of the ex-slave, a condition defined by the vulnerability to premature death and to gratuitous acts of violence” (Hartman 4). The incomplete project of freedom is a powerful and true statement for the black communities of America, who continue to attempt to address their issues of poverty, inequality advantages, and other issues, as was discussed by Anthony and Kevin in our class last Thursday. 

Week #1:Counter History

Hartman states, “…by re-presenting the sequence of events in divergent stories and from contested points of view, I have attempted to jeopardize the status of the event, to displace the authorized account, and to imagine what might have happened or might have been said” (11). In many ways the Jet article is doing exactly this, it is attempting to displace an authorized account. It serves as a counter history to the Times article because it is a revisiting and revision of the accounts otherwise told of Emmet’s murder. One can easily see the differences in the articles from the language utilized to the images or lack thereof. The Jet article disrupts the narrative most notably with images that offer everyone the opportunity to, in a sense, reconstruct the past by looking into the casket. 

Week 1: Saidiya Hartman’s Critical Fabulation

Though I initially dismissed the spectral presence of “speculation” in Hartman’s Venus in Two Acts (believing I was under the influence of my own recent engagements with speculative fiction, the speculative turn, the speculative solution to the problem of correlationalism), she explicitly names it towards the end of her piece:

Is it possible to exceed or negotiate the constitutive limits of the archive? By advancing a series of speculative arguments and exploiting the capacities of the subjunctive (a grammatical mood that expresses doubts, wishes, and possibilities), in fashioning a narrative, which is based upon archival research, and by that I mean a critical reading of the archive that mimes the figurative dimensions of history, I intended both to tell an impossible story and to amplify the impossibility of its telling (emphasis mine, 11).

Week 1 Prompts

1.     It was at first difficult for me to connect with the arc of Coleman’s narrative, mostly for the reasons Melanie outlined with Rob Nixon’s concept of “slow violence:” since Coleman’s “rage was a lifetime deep,” it took describing various, at times disjointed life events and observations to articulate the pain she accrued over decades in Watts (248). The easier story to digest is one of simply a few days of chaos and flames. On a second read, I was struck by the way Coleman structured the arc of this slow violence that I thought could be relevant to how we choose to structure our collection/project.
        She laid out how interpersonal and systemic iterations of racism slowly worked their way into her consciousness. As a young child, she was first struck by the personal, immediate effects of this violence, teachers giving preferential treatment to the white peers who called her “nigger” on the playground, while the concept of racism itself was somewhat beyond her, “amorphous, eluding [her] preadolescent expression” (249). Then, as a wave of disaffected Texan and Southern African Americans enveloped her class, she became overwhelmed by the “ignorance and race hate that smothered [her] love of learning” (250). After she begins to understand how these feelings impact a larger group beyond the individual, her understanding of the ‘slow violence’ moves to the systemic as she notices how funding is cut from her school and “Calculus, Greek, Latin, and Journalism were among the classes that disappeared from the curriculum” (254). Her description of Watts ‘65 is surprisingly brief, focused more on her personal upheaval and newfound expression than any attention-grabbing headline events. Her chronicling of slow violence evolves on the next page as she graduates from observations about her school system to South LA as a whole, observing widespread “economic disparity -as the unresolved issues of redlining, police brutality, poverty, and drugs continued to fester, and new, more voracious, youth gangs sprang from the asphalt” (255). We gain a broader and more nuanced understanding of the slow violence attending her community through Coleman’s evolution and broadening of scope over years of life experience.
      I thought this move could be instructive for structuring a type of narrative or frame within our project: moving from personal understanding, out to understanding of group and small systems, then out to the broader political and socio-economic factors at play in Watts ‘65. Perhaps we could start with stories from ‘65 or current day like Anthony’s and Kevin’s, ones of specific personal struggles under the weight of slow, systemic, even bureaucratic violence, then zooming out to glimpse the larger systems at work which produce this slow violence? Just a thought.

2.     As far as the mechanics of Hartman’s project to link a “counter history” of past events or individuals to a “history of the present,” I think it’s important to consider the questions she raises early on about enacting any kind of narrative structure around past events separate from the often sinister narrative of the archive that is intertwined with the “play of power” that in this case “murdered Venus and her shipmate and exonerated the captain” (10-11). Is crafting a narrative “its own gift and its own end” and when we do craft it, is it “for us or for them” (3)? This kind of critical self-reflection is key when enacting this kind of counter history using the tools of narrative. Hartman does stress emphatically that her intent is “not to give voice to the slave” but to advance “a series of speculative arguments…in fashioning a narrative, which is based on…a critical reading of the archive” based on the narrative structures and “figurative dimensions of history” (12, 11). This seems to involve an imaginative reconceptualization of her murdered Venus, what Amirhossein Vafa calls a “proleptic narrative,” in which one imagines what could have been possible had a subaltern voice not been silenced or made object (39). Hartman stresses that her narrative is instructive in creating the space for discussion regarding the silencing of this theoretical narrative, noting that she “intended both to tell an impossible story and to amplify the impossibility of its telling.” (11)
        The mechanics and applications of this counter history were frankly a little unclear to me. In a particularly academic way, at least to me, Hartman provides a lengthy preamble, justification, dissection, defense, and partial dismissal of her own imagining of a life for Venus. After composing it, she had to admit that all she really wanted was to console herself and “escape the slave hold with a vision of something other than the bodies of two girls settling on the floor of the Atlantic” (9). However, at the same time, she wonders out loud if “by retreating from the story of these two girls, was I simply upholding the rules of the historical guild and the ‘manufactured certainties’ of their killers, and by doing so, hadn’t I sealed their fate?” (10). After further mining the depths of her doubts, Hartman settles on this consolation, which seems to provide the most appropriate framework for enacting a narrative like this: “If this story of Venus has any value at all it is in illuminating the way in which our age is tethered to hers” since for her “a history of the present strives to illuminate the intimacy of our experience with the lives our now as it is interrupted by” or, at the very least, informed by “this past” (13, 4). In constructing this imagined past, Hartman seeks to speak to the violence, the erasure of black female voices both in our past and in our present. If by providing all of that context, she can clarify the goals of such an endeavor, it can (perhaps) rise above the status of fantasy or wish fulfillment for her audience.